Everyone who is interested in ancient Egypt should make sure that they visit the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo. It was supposed to be half of a day on our itinerary, with visits to "Old Cairo" (synagogues, mosques, Coptic churches, and the big bazaar) for the rest of the day. However, we were only interested in ancient Egypt, so we told the tour guides to give us a full day at the Cairo Museum instead. Even so, there is so much to see there that we still didn't get to see it all. (Make sure to pay the extra fee to see the room of pharonic mummies, as it is well worth the price to gaze upon the actual preserved face and body of Ramesses II.) The view above is from the second floor, looking down on one of the large museum rooms. The 23 foot high limestone statue of Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiyi is at one end of the room, giving scale to this photo.
The most impressive and well known collection in the museum are the items taken from the tomb of Tutankhamun ("King Tut"). The famous funerary mask is seen above, in one of the few photos of that group that turned out relatively clearly (it was hard to get proper focusing and work around the reflections with the glass cases that surrounded the artifacts). Note the vulture head and neck to the left of the rearing cobra (above the forehead).
Some of the museum's best surviving examples of funerary items (treasures buried with the pharaoh to go with him into the afterlife) come from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Here is a very small portion, showing one case full of statuettes (some gilded) that are about a foot tall. Note the seated statuette of Sehkmet (the lion-headed goddess), with the sun symbol on her head.
One of many stone sphinxes in the museum. It is several feet tall and 6 to 8 feet long. Other statues can be seen in the background.
A large stone statue portraying a young pharaoh (youth is shown by having his finger in his mouth), under the watchful protection of the falcon god Horus. The disk of the sun is above the child's head.
We saw some other "sights" while we were in Cairo, thanks to our tour company. We were taken to a papyrus shop (where you buy art prints of ancient Egyptian motifs on papyrus paper), a carpet-making school (where you see how carpets are made and then they try to get you to buy some finished examples), and a perfume store (where they show you how Egyptian perfumes differ from those in the Western world, then they try to sell some to you). I had the impression that the shops we were taken to received some sort of kick-back from the tour company, or else the tour guide got some sort of commission from the shops, or perhaps the shop owners were personal friends of the guide. There were plenty of similar shops of each type that we passed by, so obviously there was some reason to choose our particular examples. In any case, except for one or two of the papyrus prints *, I wasn't interested in buying anything, and wished we could have used the time to explore archeological sites instead. By the way, Sue found the carpet-making demonstration to be upseting due to the way they used child labor, and some of the kids seemed to be fearful that they weren't being quick enough during the demonstration for the visiting tourists. Even I found it a little uncomfortable, but the shop keeper said that they took in orphans from the streets, who otherwise would have died without having that job.
* Click HERE to see some of the papyrus art now in my collection.
One interesting thing that I remember about Cairo was seeing modern roads and highways that contained an ever-changing mix of occupants. There were modern cars, old buses, donkey carts, camels, bicyclists, and pedestrians all going the same direction. It seemed like the slowest "vehicles" usually stayed to the outside of the lanes, but at other times it looked very confused. We were told by our guide that he who used his horn the most usually won the right of way.